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Developing a learning culture for fire; where does CROSS fit in?

Region: CROSS-UK Published: 15 February 2022


In February’s issue of the International Fire Professional, the member journal produced by the Institution of Fire Engineers, Neil Gibbins and Dr Peter Wilkinson, CROSS-UK Designated People for Fire, explain how you can get involved in submitting a report to CROSS and also take a look at the fire related reports published to date.

The value of a voluntary confidential reporting scheme was identified by the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) back in 2005. A means by which responsible professionals could share concerns, events and other pieces of learning with their peers was set up utilising a process designed by NASA for the US aviation industry - the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS).

In her post Grenfell review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety1, Dame Judith Hackitt recognised that CROSS should be extended and strengthened to include other engineering disciplines including fire. Dr Alastair Soane, founding Director of CROSS, approached the IFE to explore the route to extending CROSS into fire. Supported by funding from the
Government Building Safety Programme. CROSS was renamed "Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures" and relaunched in March 2021 with a new website and with the capability to receive and publish fire-related reports.

How can CROSS help?

There are several benefits that can be delivered through an effective voluntary reporting system, at all levels: 

  • Promotes culture change
  • Identifies shortfalls and pre-cursors
  • Improves competence
  • Lessons learned shared
  • Informs regulatory and industry activities
  • Assists with horizon scanning
  • Protects your reputation

Dame Judith Hackitt made many references to "culture" in her review. CROSS is a significant tool to help demonstrate a good or "just" culture, providing the opportunity to engage with CROSS gives both individuals and organisations a route to share learning, including from events that would have no other safe route to publication. Structural engineers now routinely monitor CROSS reports, they have become part of the fabric of the profession.

How does CROSS work?

It is really important that people in the fire sector can see how CROSS operates. The system is built on trust and understanding. We are deploying a system tried and tested by our structural engineer colleagues. but. understandably, we need to build the relationship in the fire sector, earning your trust. This is how it works:

1. Submit a report
You submit a report about a safety issue using our secure website. After you submit a report, you will receive a confirmation email. 'Designated People' at CROSS-UK will communicate with you as they process your report. The only people that get to see the reporters' details are the Designated People i.e., for fire: Dr Peter Wilkinson and Neil Gibbins. Learn more about the CROSS-UK team. 

2.    Report is anonymised
The Designated People will anonymise your report. This includes removing your personal information and any other identifiable details in the report. They will also edit the report for clarity.

3.    Expert Panel comments
The anonymised report may be sent to the CROSS-UK Expert Panels to add their comments. They use their experience to help professionals understand what can be learned from the report. The fire panel is being developed as we gain understanding of the system and get more reports coming through for analysis.

4.    Legal review
A legal review of the anonymised report takes place to make sure there are no concerns with publishing the report.

5.    Review your report
The final anonymised report is sent back to you for any comments.

6.    Report is published
The anonymised report is published on the CROSS website for others to learn from. Your personal information will not be published with the report. After the report is published, all of the associated information, including your personal information, is deleted from our systems.

We do not accept anonymous reports, but we do provide anonymity- we need to check the probity of reports submitted, often need additional information and we give the opportunity for the reporter to comment on the report before it is published.

Fire related reports published by CROSS

At the time of writing, a search of the CROSS website asking for all fire reports resulted in 76 hits. We have recently published Newsletter 63- the longstanding approach has been to create quarterly newsletters, giving an overview of activity, listing all recently published reports and sharing some in full. We see value in having one publication that covers both structural and fire reports- many overlap and may add value to those looking at issues that have wider implications.

Report 1072  is a case in point; the reporter having carried out a great deal of work to satisfy themselves that what they are specifying is safe, identified that there is a lack of clear information from manufacturers and/or suppliers about fire resisting properties of products and systems- a common theme, also highlighted in other reports especially regarding hatches (report 1057 on fire stopping products ) and fire stopping products (report 1039)

Gain and share knowledge with CROSS

CROSS is already highly valued by the structural engineering profession. Its expansion into fire can only succeed with your assistance- we need you to create an account (free) on the CROSS website and sign up to receive updates. We can assure you that you will not be bombarded with spam. We also need reports- if you see something, know something, have a concern- please share it via our website- it is set up to ask the bare minimum to get us going, we know you are busy- but your knowledge could provide the vital piece in the jigsaw.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the February issue of the International Fire Professional, produced by the Institution of Fire Engineers

Share your knowledge

Your report will make a difference. It will help to create positive change and improve safety.

Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others.